Fundraising – Outside the Box

Last time, I told you that my son, Jack, is going to Ireland next year with the band, football, cheer and ROTC from his school. The trip is to showcase American football to the folks in Dublin. I’m not convinced Dubliners really care about American football, but the trip sounds fun. What doesn’t sound fun are the typical booster club fundraisers needed to raise the more than $450,000 needed to get everyone across the pond. That’s why I volunteered my efforts to spearhead the fundraising efforts at Hamilton High School for the Ireland trip.

I have nothing against the typical booster club fundraisers. They are great for building sweat equity, character and needed operational funds. But I believe there are other methods of raising money for special campaigns that have a larger return on investment of time and money.

Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing some of our experiences and some fundraising tips. Hopefully you’ll find something useful. This time, I wanted to talk about two of the strategies in our fundraising plan that clearly have potential to raise more money than the others: Tax credits and corporate sponsorships.

Education Tax Credits: There is some debate about these, but if you live in a tax credit state, you should be taking advantage of it. In our case, tax credits make perfect sense to offset educational expenses and special fundraising campaigns. In Arizona, the state allows tax credits up to $200.00 for individuals, and up to $400.00 for a married couple. The entire amount paid is credited back to the donor when they file their taxes, so that support really costs them nothing! It is the easiest way of benefiting a school that I’ve seen. I made seven phone calls to friends without school-aged kids and they all agreed to help Jack with his trip. Why not? They are going to pay the taxes anyway, why not re-direct those dollars to help a cause they care about?

If you live in a state with education tax credits, you’re probably already tapping into family members’ tax credit gifts for your operational budget. If you have a special fundraising need coming up (trips, uniforms, etc.) that is outside your operational budget, consider a direct mail campaign to retirement communities or affluent neighborhoods to expand your base of tax credit support. There is some cost involved in obtaining addresses and mailing the letters, but the return on investment could be huge. Or, you could just take the grassroots approach and look to your own network. What if only half the kids’ parents in your band were responsible for bringing in 5-10 extra tax credit gifts? The results could be substantial.

Corporate and Community Sponsorships: This is not a new idea, and you are probably already doing it. The concept is simple: a local business or industry makes a gift to your organization in exchange for some form of recognition that you provide it. Here’s why I like corporate sponsorships:

  1. Unlike outright fundraising, there’s an exchange. You give the donor something tangible in return for their support. Donors like that.
  2. Sponsorships typically come from a marketing budget and not a philanthropic budget. You like that since many philanthropic budgets have gone away.
  3. It multiplies your donor base. You’re not just getting support from a company. You’re getting support from the people who own or operate that company. They are your opportunity. Start cultivating those relationships and you could start getting their support as well as their company’s support.

Some things to consider when putting together a sponsorship program:

Be Creative: Sponsors want impressions. What can you offer your sponsors that will get their name and logo in front of as many people as possible? Chances are you’re not going to wear their logo at the Super Bowl, but look at the opportunities you do have: recognition from the 50-yard line at halftime, an opportunity to be guest conductor at a concert, a logo on your band t-shirt. You know what works best for your school and band. Be willing to negotiate, and don’t be afraid to ask: “How can we best recognize your generosity?”

Pay Attention to the Rules: Let your sponsors know the fair market value of any goods or benefits they receive. Their contribution is deductible only to the extent that it exceeds the fair market value of the benefits you provide.

Communicate: Talk to the other booster clubs at your school. Few things annoy potential sponsors more than getting multiple solicitations from the same school. Coordinate your asks. If you share a sponsor, make one ask and give them twice the recognition!

Take it Personally: When possible, avoid the “Dear Friend” letter. You’ll have much more success if you ask someone you already have a relationship with and if you do it in person. Take another volunteer or faculty member with you. You’ll give each other moral support.

BFFF: This stands for the Best Friends Forever Factor. Once you get a sponsor, make them your BFF, and deliver more than promised. You can never over-thank your sponsors. Send them Christmas and birthday cards. Send them a picture of the band wearing the company logo for their lobby. Take the jazz or pep band to play for their employees in the cafeteria. Invite them to your concerts and contests. The intent here is to communicate with them throughout the year so that their NEXT sponsorship is much easier to get.

I hope that some of this information was helpful to you. The economic realities of the past few years has made fundraising very difficult. But it’s not impossible. Be innovative and think outside the box. Americans still support those things we believe in. As volunteer fundraisers, we just have to make it easier for them to do so.

If you have other thoughts or ideas, please share them in the comments section so everyone can benefit! If you have questions or need more information, please contact me at Rich@VisionConnectLLC.com.

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